Tadasana, I Am Firm, I Am Still

Me in the desert of the Atlas Mountains in Morroco.

Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, focusing inward on the spot between your brows. Spine erect while you line up your vertebrae one plate at a time until you come back to the space occupied by your third eye. Hands lay open at your sides, palms face forward inviting the light and energy to merge with you. 

Can you calm the mind long enough to feel the ascent into the clouds? As I do the pose I have help. I am listening to the mantra Hari Om on repeat. It helps with the concentration and release of tension. My body is eager to move. The stance triggers a memory response to start sun salutation flows, plank, cobra and downward facing dog. I resist a bit longer and focus on my breath.

Can I become a mountain? Do I desire to voluntarily stay put? Hmmm

Do mountains move ever? Of course they do. History is full of geological graphs showing the migration of large masses of rock from one location to another quite far away.

As I stand in mountain pose I sense the rock chips breaking away subtle at first then becoming more frequent. Thoughts collect to form solid matter and I think I can find stable ground and stance that will connect me to the earth beneath my feet. Can I sort through the rubble enough to arrange the scattered material into a foundation then add enough mortar to keep it stuck together?

What makes the mass crumble? I have watched avalanches from a safe distance, even seen some snow slides too close for comfort. I have been in flash floods that have moved the rocks beneath my feet on mountain sides and tested my skills to find purchase on a loose shale path. It’s a slippery slope when the material under your feet isn’t stable. I have fallen, even hurt myself and yet I am still willing and able to go back up and try again. I am determined or maybe just stubborn…lol.

Being a mountain can be a lonely choice of states. You may be part of a family of like minds such as a rocky range that traverses as far as the eye can see or you may have to stand out alone. Other beings depend on you for their existence and shelter. You can be covered in stuff put their by others such as plants and animals or thoughts and ideals you don’t own. Liquid flows around you, through you and sometimes even breaks you in half. It’s good to note the most harmless things like water can erode your foundations over time and yet is essential to yours and others existence. What comes to erode you that you may want to divert or eliminate? What helps you to grow strong and healthy be it mineral or mentally?

I hold the pose a bit longer. What am I trying to avoid facing by moving on or away from this place of stability and solitude? I do have an insistent desire to take flight, go anywhere most of the time. To keep moving. While in the pose I do feel a sense of calmness that replaces the anxiety.

Do I like being alone? I don’t hate it. I get my energy from the time spent in my own company doing things I love to do or doing nothing but standing on a mountain in Mountain Pose. We are made of compressed things forced together over time. The matter that forms us. Sound familiar? We have more in common with mountain masses than you may think. Sometimes we find ourselves up high on a ledge wondering how we got this point without awareness? At the peak we need to decide which directions to go from there. Often we get to the top of our goals only to discover that all we have reached are plateaus or a false summit. Just a ladder top that you can see multiple ladders in the distance waiting for you to discover their existence. Are they worth dying on or are we missing the point of the climb?

My mind wanders as I hold the pose a bit longer. My eyes are closed and my breathing has become deep and peaceful. I am sinking further into the mist. A vision pops up in my head, at first I brush it away then decide to let it come. 

I am back in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. I have awoken to the sound of the wind whipping through our tent. My bed is right by the door which is now ajar. It’s not quite morning but I am awake so I decide to get up and make my way towards the dunes. The predawn shed enough light for me to find my way. I pass the camels that have been hobbled in between the sand hills and push upward to the top of a rocky peak. I look out over the range and decide this must be what they mean by the place that heaven meets the earth.

I can see myself standing there in Mountain Pose. I can sense the pressure changing as the sky starts to illuminate. I have chosen an elevated spot to witness the beauty of the day as it begins.

I feel extremely connected to the universe when I occupy the mountain pose. I wonder why that is and then seem to understand the connection. The quiet solitude that comes from the stance. The sense of peering outward while planted on top of the world. Connected to everything yet a recognition of being alone.

Namaste

So Long, Playa del Carmen

You may have noticed Vanessa has been busy blogging the past few weeks while I’ve been absent. That’s because Martin and I were in Playa del Carmen for two weeks.

It was the first “real” vacation we have taken. Sure, we’ve gone camping for a few days and we’ve visited each of our ‘home’ cities, but this was the first time we were heading out of country together.

I have to admit, I was slightly concerned. With Martin’s work schedule, he and I haven’t spent more than 10 days together since we met two years ago – now we were looking at three weeks together, two of them in Mexico. Just him and me – no distractions – only each other. Add to this, Martin has a stronger than average need for solitude given his introverted nature. How were we going to manage?

Turns out, we managed very well. We got through airport madness, resort construction, street vendors, getting lost when we tried to find Walmart, and COVID tests intact. We fell into a routine where he’d get up before me and get our lounge chairs for the day. He had a couple of hours to himself before I joined him. We’d have breakfast together and then go to our loungers where he’d read stock market news and I’d read a book or play “Plants vs. Zombies” on my iPad. I’d go to the gym (he joined me a couple of times) or join in on water volleyball and water aerobics classes while he suntanned. Sometimes, we’d snorkel in front of the resort. Then, we’d relax on our room’s deck and have dinner together. Some evenings, we’d walk into the city or watch the evening entertainment. Other nights, we’d go back to our room to relax.

It was a perfect vacation. Our goal was to get somewhere warm, near the ocean, and relax. We didn’t book any excursions, though we did go over to Cozumel for a day. We’d be in bed by 10:00 Calgary time, and sleep soundly through the night. We didn’t realize how exhausting it was to do so little!

It was a wonderful way to end 2021. With everything that happened throughout the year, getting a chance to spend so much quality time with him was exactly what I needed. I think it was what he needed, too. He hadn’t had time off since March of 2020.

As I said good-bye when I dropped him off at the airport last night, he gave me a big hug and said “I’m actually going to miss you.” I laughed. I knew what he meant. I’ll miss him, too.

Are You Retirement Compatible?

When it comes to retiring are you and your significant other on the same page?

In life and relationships we talk about a lot of things in regards to goals, religious beliefs, values, children and who is going to clean the toilet…lol. Most often, we gloss over at what age we are going to retire as it seems so far away when we are young.

These days though, many partners are talking about taking a break from their jobs for a year or two fully expecting they will find another job eventually. Some are trying to catch up with retirement funds, paying off debt that was unexpected and dealing with the cost of relationship breakdowns. Life can get complicated and a large amount of people put time away from working on the back burner. We live in a world now where you could be working into your seventies.

So, have you had the talk with your partner? Are you retirement compatible? What if you aren’t aligned on timing, expectations and lifestyle?

I remember thinking in my twenties that I would retire at 65. I would work, most likely, at one maybe two jobs. I would have a pension and some savings and life would be awesome when I turned 65. Well, we all know what happens to life while we are living. So many things are unexpected and not planned for. You wake and realize that those you love and expected to grow old with or around have either passed away or in bad health. You feel older. You slow down when you are hiking. You are weaker and feel pain in your joints. When did I start to get older? I thought all those things happened in your seventies not your fifties. I watch those around me and I realize my window of opportunity to live with abandonment is shortening. I can’t rely on being in good health when I am 65. I know my abilities today and I feel that if I can continue to build strength and endurance now that as I get older the longevity should hold. At least that’s my theory and I am sticking to it.

I have been talking to many friends and family about their plans. Some wanted to take time off to travel now and then maybe go back to work when they get tired of doing that. Others plan to work until they can’t work anymore well into their seventies or beyond. Others plan to work and play and juggle the two. What has been a common theme though is that most find themselves in a bit of a pickle when it comes to agreement from their partner as to both being on the same page.Life throws us curve balls. I am a firm believer that the universe shakes things up when we get too complacent. 

My universe is telling me to squeeze the lemons now. Get as much juice as you can out of this existence. My husband is planning on working another 9 years or so.I am hoping he will decide that there is more to life than stock piles of money and things. You can’t rush someone else’s discoveries. You shouldn’t wait though to “do you”. It’s scary to venture out on your own. It’s even scarier to sit and wait for someone else to get on board.

Life’s obstacles are constant and ever coming at you. I had journeyed with an eagle in the past and it had shown me to put the chaos in my palm and squeeze out order and decisions from it. It’s an exercise I can do physically to help me focus on which direction to follow. Mistakes will be made, that’s how we move forward. It takes more courage to act than to stand still and watch.

Next week I am taking a break from van renos to hang out in Banff with my sister in law. We have decided to go tandem skydiving and caving. The waivers are signed and the deposits are given. I am making lemonade with the sweetest ingredients I can find. I am not saying that finding common ground with your partner isn’t important. It totally is. Respect for each other and practical goals are key. Time away from work doesn’t have to be expensive. I find a balance of things I do that are free and things that are epic adventures that may cost me a bit. It’s the doing that counts. The sharing of the experience. We all relied heavily on our memories during COVID of things we had done in the past to get us through the rough patch. I thank my lucky stars that I was blessed with so many adventures in my life so far.

It’s funny how the biggest regret in life is usually the ones that involve not doing something rather than taking the leap and trusting you will land safely. The journey is worth it!

Hopefully your partner agrees that taking breaks sooner rather than later is the way to go. If they don’t then it’s up to you to decide whether you stay put and wait for them or…

Get into that harness, secure the lines and find someone who is compatible with the here and now of your awareness.

Time For Fessing Up

I have a confession to make. I have a phobia about asking for help, for things or even directions when I might be lost. Where does it stem from? Well, I can probably spout many options to answer that question but I won’t. What, for me, is important is what to do about it.

The van purchase has motivated me to get past my fears and tackle speaking and asking for help as much as I need to. I think it’s going to be good for me. Part of me really wants to try my hand at doing some of the work on the van. As a woman who grew up in the era that girls didn’t “fix things”, girls didn’t sign up for automotive classes or wood working in high school. I got the option of home-ec and/or band. I won’t tell you how bad of a sewer I am and the tragic nightgown that I threw away right after class was done. I think the flannel beast weighed close to a 100 pounds. I can cook but we didn’t really cook that much in class. I always walked past the shop and peeked in. Envying the opportunity to learn a skill that would be very useful right now in my fifties ambitions.

My husband is very handy but not really thrilled that I bought an old campervan. He has basically stated I am on my own. I am ok with that. The anxiety level is through the roof with getting it right or at least making sure any thing I do doesn’t fall apart around me as I travel. I have watched tons of restoration videos so far and those people don’t fool me. I know the art of editing and angles to make the most of making it seem simple while hiding the big flaws.

What a trip though if I can pull it off no? Renovating a piece of classic Americana that has remained functional and desirable. So, for the big stuff, like appliances, electrical and vehicle repairs I will leave it to the experts. What about the things I can learn to do like making a slide out bed or building cupboards or trying my hand at sewing again? What is life without a challenge?

It would be so much easier to pry my wallet open and dole out the cash to someone else to do it for me but my spirit tells me I at least have to try. I do have a handy crew of relatives who I might be able to bribe to help me. My brother use to work in a trailer factory. I have a niece who is partnered with a heavy duty mechanic. A sister who used to fabricate fixing airplane bodies for a living. So expertise is there. We are not without resources for sure. This winter could be an interesting time where I could gain huge confidence in my abilities and finally learn how to use power tools.

Stay tuned to see who wins the argument my spirit, my sanity or my husband (scenario where I just resell the beast and call it a day).

The Healing Springs of Bali

The healing powers of Bali

Unpacking space: Past, Present and Future

I am forever grateful I have this gift of past travels. To bask in my adventures through memories, meditation and photos is priceless. To give gratitude everyday for having the presence of mind to soak up every minute of it helps me now to cope with our current present. To know that you are part of something greater than yourself and to be open to the customs and healing rituals of other cultures and beliefs enriches our humanity. It’s an amazing world and we are lucky to have it! You don’t have to travel to exotic places to enjoy and take part of wellness( I know that’s easy for me to say as I have done that many times). The wilderness by my house is full of medicine for my soul. It’s the intention to create a space for healing that counts in the long run to what we put in our “spaces”.

In a time when the world is in turmoil, the need to open a sanctuary of comfort and kindness is desperately welcomed. I was lucky to have experienced such a place in 2019. Accompanied by my neice and a mutual friend, we traveled for three glorious weeks throughout Bali. As was our way in Bali, the guide found us at the entrance to the springs. He then proceeded to spend the day giving us guidance, history and acted as our personal photographer (didn’t expect that but now I am grateful for the wonderful photos). It was an opportunity for us to reflect on our past, be fully aware of our present and to create an inviting space for our futures.

The Titra Empul Healing Springs in Bali has a rich history, sense of sacredness and truly a wonder of nature. The temple was built in 926 AD during the rule of Warmadewa. The location was chosen because of the presence of a sacred spring. The legend tells a tale of an epic battle between a magical king named Mayadenawa and a god called Indra.

Mayadenawa possessed great spiritual powers of transformation. As with any great power the temptation to exploit it caused him to use it for evil instead of good. The god, Indra, took exception to this practice and planned an attack on the king. Mayadenawa caught wind of the plan and snuck into Indra’s camp as the army slept one night. He decided to create an enticing pond where the army would drink from when they awoke in the morning.

Indra discovered many of his men had perished and many more were sick or dying. Indra, with his almighty power, pierced the ground with his staff and converted the water to a sacred spring that was thought to be holy.

Today the spring still flows and many locals, countrymen and seekers of healing line the pathways eager to immerse themselves or fill their water bottles in the ponds.There is an interesting property about how the water bubbles up to the surface. The earth in which it emerges is a combination of sand and gravel. One would think it would be cloudy or discoloured. Any yet, it comes up crystal clear. I watched as many visitors fill their jugs, canteens and water bottles. I was curious so asked the guide what the purpose of doing this is? Since the water is believed to be sacred and full of healing properties, many use it in ceremonies, blessings and personal rituals.

Before we got to the temple we had stopped at a local market to purchase a sarong as the dress code was very strict in the pools and on the grounds. The guide was very helpful in showing us the right way to tie a sarong. I was skeptical that it would cover my bits but he was an expert and in no time we were ready to make our way to the gates of the first set of pools. We purchased a small bamboo container and some flowers and incense to make an offering then made our way to the entrance.

Opening space…

Centering your being with intent and focus is part of the protocol and practice. We found a space to sit on the stone benches facing the water. Ah the energy in a place like that is mystical, thick with culture, history and balm for your soul. In silent meditation we drew on our own desires and needs. We opened our hearts and mind to the knowing support was available from these ancient spirit guides.

Saying “goodbye” to the past…

The guide instructed us that there were 3 sets of fountains in the maze of pools. They represented the past, the present and the future. As you approach each flowing tap, meditate on what you want most then fullfill the actions as directed. 

My heart was beating out of my chest as I worried about remembering all of the instructions. I wanted to do it right! It was my turn. The past, what wrong doings did I want to let go of? Who did I need to forgive, forget and release? I cupped the water as instructed and with a downward motion washed away my past three times in quick succession. To seal the deal, I then dunked my head under the spigot to get rid of any lingering negative energy. Even as I write this now, I still feel the release and a sense of being lighter somehow.

Bring awareness to the present…

We navigated out of the first pool and made our way to the second set.

In this meditative labyrinth we contemplated the present and future. Invited positive energy to fill our hearts and minds. I cupped the water and let it flow from the back of my head this time to the front. Welcoming the exchange of energy instead of pushing it away. An invitation to heal within my being.

By this time I am feeling pretty wonderful. Almost like the water is full of happy juice. I start to notice the people around us clearer. I can see the generations of families that are here together from newborn babies to great grandmas. I am in awe and a bit jealous of the bond they must be feeling. As we make our way to the stairs, one of the families is right in front of me. Great grandma is making her way up the stairs to rise up out of the water. I reach to help and all of the sudden there are numerous relatives surrounding us. She smiles at me, my heart clenches. Can she see into my soul? I think she can as the joy is reflected back at me through her generational eyes.

A drink to the future…

Our final wade leads us towards the future. The ritual changes slightly. We dip our heads three times under the fountain and then take a sip from the spring. This will ensure any lingering negative energy or toxins are released and we ingest positive energy for our future.

We came away from the springs refreshed. Each of us wanting to find a quiet space to savor and take in all we had been blessed to be part of. 

My heart was full. My mind was sharp and clear and my soul? It was soaring!!

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